Today @NCCapitol (July 24): Election laws bill on Senate floor; Wake schools bill in House
Posted July 24, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, July 24. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
FIRST UP: The House Finance Committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. to deal with a bill that currently shifts the responsibility of the State Auditor's Office.
HOUSE RULES: The House Rules Committee will meet at 10 a.m. They will take up a Senate bill that would require hospitals to disclose more of the prices associated with procedures and treatments. The committee is also scheduled to take another look at a bill that would allow local governments in Guilford County to advertise public meetings and other information online rather than in the newspaper. That bill failed to pass on a 10-10 vote Tuesday.
SENATE RULES: The Senate Rules Committee meets at 10 a.m. Lawmakers are scheduled to look over a bill that would expand the number of at-will employees the governor could appoint from 1,000 to 1,500. It would also streamline the process of firing other employees who aren't doing their jobs effectively.
HITCHHIKERS: The measure in Senate Rules dealing with state employees is a potential target for end-of-session shenanigans. It is a high-priority of the governor and favored by the House. It is possible Senate lawmakers may tack on some other legislation less popular with their colleagues in order to get it passed.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (July 23) Already, a bill reorganizing the Commerce Department looks like it may have picked up some hitchhiking provisions in a conference committee. Three House Republicans privy to those committee talks say Senate leaders are pushing to add two controversial environmental provisions to the measure. One of the hitchhiking provisions, most recently sighted in the regulatory reform omnibus House Bill 74, would prevent the Mining and Energy Commission – the state's fracking oversight board – from requiring fracking operators to hand over the chemical recipes for the fluids they're using in natural gas mining operations. The other provision Senate leaders are said to be pushing to add to the Commerce reorganization bill is a controversial proposal to ease restrictions on the siting and permitting of landfills in North Carolina, currently known as Senate Bill 328.
BUDGET: Both the House and Senate gave tentative approval to the $20.6 billion state budget on Tuesday. Final votes are expected today. The bill would then go to Gov. Pat McCrory. A continuing resolution under which state government is operating right now expires at the end of July.
HOUSE SESSION: The state House is scheduled to meet at noon today and take up a bill that would allow the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take over school building construction and maintenance from the independently elected Wake County School Board. Similar measure that applied to more counties have already been rejected by one House committee and have faced opposition from Republicans and Democrats. Lawmakers, legislative staff, and lobbyists following the issue say the Wake County's bill is uncertain, one of the few measure to reach the floor whose outcome is truly in doubt.
Also on the House calendar are bills that would allow some convicted felons restore their ability to carry firearms more quickly and increase penalties for those who file their taxes late. A measure dealing with the cleanup of the Jordan Lake is also on the calendar, but has been delayed at least twice already and its possible consideration could be further pushed back.
Groups cite Florida debacle as reason to keep NC early voting period SENATE SESSION: The state Senate is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. today and is scheduled to take up a massive rewrite of the state's election laws. The bill would require voters to show photo ID when they come to the polls and would tweak dozens of other election provisions, including loosening restrictions on campaign donors and shortening the period allowed for early voting.
WHAT WILL THE HOUSE DO WITH THE ELECTIONS BILL? That's a little unclear. Lawmakers who have lead the chamber's thinking on election laws, such as Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said Tuesday they hadn't seen the Senate's bill and expressed some reservations about the newly added provisions. However, when he was asked about following a bill signing ceremony Tuesday, House Speaker Thom Tillis expressed support.
"We're looking at the bill. Generally we agree with the direction the Senate's taking the bill," he said. Asked if the House would pass the bill, he said, "I believe so."
ALSO IN THE SENATE: The chamber is also scheduled to hear a measure that would force the City of Durham to extend water and sewer to the 751 South Development, but that measure has been pushed back from consideration several times.
WRAL.com will carry the Senate Session live at 1 p.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
THE END: Both Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger said Tuesday they believe that the legislative session would end for the year on Thursday or Friday.
"Thursday is the day we're shooting for," Berger said. "I've told folks, usually when you say Thursday at the end of the session, it means Friday morning early."
MORE STORIES: Other stories we were following Tuesday included:
GUNS: The state House and Senate have approved a sweeping package of gun laws that tighten penalties for those who violate firearm laws and expand where those with concealed handgun permits can carry their weapons. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature or veto. An earlier version of the bill passed by the system would have done away with North Carolina's system of requiring a handgun purchase permit for those who want to buy a pistol but don't hold a concealed handgun permit. The House rejected the bill largely based on this measure.
The compromise passed by by both chambers Tuesday keeps the current handgun permit system in place but give local sheriffs less latitude in issuing the permits. Sheriffs will no longer be able restrict the number of handgun permits an individual can obtain in a year, something that some sheriffs do now. Also, sheriffs will have to keep a record and show cause when they reject a handgun permit application.
TAXES AND TEACHERS: Gov. Pat McCrory has signed the 2013 tax bill into law. The measure lowers corporate and personal income taxes, but falls short of the more sweeping reform some legislative leaders envisioned at the beginning of the year. Critics, mainly Democrats and liberal policy groups, have lambasted the tax bill as draining resources from state government. They point to a state budget poised to be passed this week that contains no raises for state employees or teachers as a consequence of the tax measure.
"This tax reform will give teachers making approximately $40,000 to $45,000 a 1 percent increase in take-home pay," McCrory said. "That's good news for teachers."
However, teachers told WRAL that earning $40,000 was a long way off for many of them. Far more common were answers like one from Amanda Pierce of Martin County.
"I still haven't hit $40,000 and I have been teaching for nine years and have earned a Master's Degree and National Board Certification. I also receive additional salary incentives for serving as the countywide support coach for new teachers and serve as a mentor to new teachers," said Pierce, who teaches second grade.
FRACKING: A bill to ease regulations on a natural gas drilling process known as "fracking" in North Carolina has won final approval and is headed to the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory. The final compromise version of Senate Bill 76 is far more modest than the original measure, which would have allowed fracking to move ahead March 1, 2015, without an additional vote by state lawmakers. That provision is absent from the final measure, which reinstates the original requirement for legislative approval of the rules for fracking before permits can be issued and drilling can begin.
DOGS: House Speaker Thom Tillis named a very special honorary sergeant-at-arms Tuesday – a retired military working dog named Britt. Britt, a trained narcotics dog, was in the House to represent working dogs in the U.S. military. Saturday, at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, officials will unveil a new memorial to military dogs killed in action.